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Role of Orthopedic Implants and Bone Morphology in the Identification of Human Remains

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When conventional methods of identification, such as visual recognition and dental comparison, cannot be used to identify a deceased person, it becomes necessary to consider alternative methods. The presence of an orthopedic implant in a body may assist identification if ante-mortem medical records are available for comparison. Another method of identification involves comparison of ante-mortem and postmortem radiographs. Eight cases are reported from Forensic Science SA where the presence of orthopedic implants and/or ante-mortem radiographs were used to try to establish identification. In six cases, positive identification was established, and in two cases with upper limb orthopedic implants, the bones remained unidentified. Manufacturers were unable to provide any information about the distribution and use of the implants that could be of use with identification, as there are no requirements in Australia for individual medical implants to be tracked. Such a system has the potential to aid postmortem identification if serial codes were etched onto implants that could then be traced to manufacturers, surgeons, and recipients of these devices.

Keywords: forensic anthropology; forensic radiography; forensic science; medical device; skeletal remains

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Forensic Science South Australia, 21 Divett Place, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia.

Publication date: 2007-03-01

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